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If the puppy is more than 3-4 months old, don’t shoot and use the "little birds” such as starlings, wrens, etc., for your retrieving. They are the one gulp size now and there probably isn’t much left of them so the blood, etc. can cause a “munching” problem!   A dog can develop an eating problem from shot up birds or wet pigeons. If that happens, from then on, only use birds that are not shot--do not use wet or frozen pigeons.  If you use the frozen pigeons, let them thaw most of the way first.  Gas the pigeons (in a bag over the exhaust of the car) so that there is no featherless skin, blood, guts, etc.  You can apply a shot and throw them then with less chance of the dog eating them.  Never use a badly shot duck until the eating or mouthing problem is solved.  Later, train using a badly shot-up duck cause you will get the odd one in a trial or test but use this after the force fetching is done and there is no eating problem.  Never shoot a gun for young dogs without a retrieve associated with it   This is exactly what can cause a dog to be gun-shy…Yes, this is a man-made problem, not hereditary.  Once they are retrieving nicely, then add a shot with a small caliber gun and throw the bird.  The gunner should be out a fair ways from you doing the shooting and throwing, not overtop of the dog.  Work your way up top a 12 gauge and closer to the dog with the shot and throw, doing this over a period of time.  No rushing…

For young dogs, stick to 3-4 retrieves at a time maximum, never throwing in the same place twice (you don't want them going back to an old fall) and learn to quit right away if he/she tires or slows up in speed or desire.  Always end on a positive note...even if you have to throw a 10-foot bumper to get the happy ending!  Throwing too many retrieves at a time makes a dog lose interest, thus the dog laying down, dropping the bumper/bird, not coming back, etc.  If you are working on her going across a little ditch, as in land-water-land, and she does it correctly, then stop or move on to something else.  Don't repeat in the same place even if it is a failure.  If she doesn't do it, repeat the same scenario but move on down the ditch a little ways, etc.

Don't use birds all the time
If she picks them up with no problem you've achieved that.  Train with canvas and vinyl bumpers, birds occasionally.  A young dog can loose interest in bumper work, which is not good as there will be times when you can use birds or they are accessible. 

How to teach your puppy to hold
Start taking short walks with you new puppy.  As he grows, he will enjoy these walks and automatically pick up things in his mouth and happily bring them to you.  Walks with other dogs when he is bigger are good, but for this exercise, it’s just you and your dog.  This time will provide several important facets for his beginning obedience and retrieving.  As you walk, when the puppy picks up a stick, ball, soda can, etc., call him happily to you by saying the command “here”.   Usually he’ll come right over to you, knowing he’ll get a little attention.  When he does, praise him for a moment, and then gently take the object from his mouth with the command “give”.  The key here is to immediately say, “fetch” and offer the object back to the puppy’s mouth, say good boy and let the pup run off to play again carrying the object.  In a few minutes, do the same thing over again, remembering the commands, give, fetch, and then praise.  You’ll find that in just a few days of this fun play, the pup comes to you much easier than before, he will start holding the object until you take it from his mouth, and he learns that “fetch” means to take something into his mouth again and carry/hold it.  As he progresses, add a little more to it.  When he comes up to you, gently hold the collar, tell him to sit, then “good boy”, then the give and fetch routine.  Next step is to move this fun game into your yard work, using a bumper for carrying, then doing the give and the fetch.  Once you start throwing marks to practice the retrieve, he’ll already know what to do and where to go when he picks something up!  You’ll be surprised how much easier they come to you, sit, give, and fetch again and all you did was to take a fun walk in the woods with your dog!

I do this with all my puppies, starting at 8-10 weeks on their short walks.  You don't want them ever to drop the bumper/bird or spit it out. The ideal thing is to have the dog return to heel position with the bird held in the mouth until you take it from them but this is taught in several stages...(Having the dog come to heel position is important when you get into multiple marks and handling). Also, if the dog insists on dropping the bumper all the time, try sitting on the ground, teasing and playing with her.  With bumper in hand, scurry it around on the ground, getting her to jump at it, grab it and hold it.  Give it a little short fling if necessary to encourage picking it up and holding it--it's a game to her but one that can help teach.  Let the dog hold it a bit, while you rub them and tell them “good dog”.  One reason a smart puppy doesn’t come back to you is because they know as soon as they do, you take their “prize” away!

Only use one word commands!!!
Heel, sit, give, fetch, and hold, NO, kennel.... Send the dog to retrieve on her name.  Fetch means to take the bumper.  So if she drops it, you say "fetch"...that is the command to take it from your hand, off the ground, etc....then you use the word "hold" while she is sitting, with little taps up under the chin--this keeps her head up and she can't spit out the bumper....lots of praising...don't make her hold too long at first...once they know give, fetch, hold...then you do the force fetching, which is with the ear pinch and it "only reinforces" the commands that she knows.  Too many people force the dog to learn the commands with the ear pinch instead of reinforcing what the dog already knows.

You must do basic obedience along with the retrieving ...especially if she is dropping the bird, and won't come in to you.  Do your retrieving either in the morning when she is not tired and rearin' to go...or after she has been kenneled...never when she is tired or after she has ran around the yard for a half hour.  Keep her 'high" and wanting to run!  Do the obedience at a different time or with a lot of time in between so she is fresh and up for it again.

Reinforce the Commands
If she knows sit, heel and come, then now you have to "reinforce them".  Just like the force fetching, teach the commands first, then apply a little pressure for reinforcement to make her know "she better do it now".

Force to Sit
Use a long leash and choke chain.  Just keep saying sit, cuff with hand up under the chin if she goes to come toward you and pull the leash up, holding it tight above her head till she sits.  Don't go but a few steps away...then try to walk around her, holding the leash in your left hand, holding it high and straight above her head.  If she moves, you pull straight up, staying No, sit...every correction is always "no, sit” or "no, come", no hold, etc.  Always the command NO, then the command for what you want.  After 10 minutes of this drill, you will be amazed.  You should be able to walk around her, tug gently on the leash while using the Sit command and she will actually sit, and not come to you, even with the tugging!  Always teach the dog to respond to “voice or sight” commands, not by the tug of the leash, etc.

Force to Come
Sit the leash length away.  Since she is now forced to sit (you did this already every day for a week), then you will do the same with Come...Do not use the dog's name (obedience classes do this but since in field work her command to retrieve is her name, you don't use it for anything else but that) So, it's "come" and quickly pull her hard with the leash to you.  Stay only 3 steps away again at the beginning.  Next time, come, walking quickly back ward 2-3 steps further, and firmly pull that leash until she runs up facing you and sits.  In fieldwork, she should not walk around to the right behind you to heel position.  When she is in front, hold your left arm out and say heel.  Take a step or two backwards while you gently pull her with the leash to your left, and into heel next to you. (All these commands are in a normal voice, even fetch, no loud screaming, etc.)  You can work on coming to the heel position separate from the sit, and the come...just start with her sitting in front of you, and hold out left arm, pull the leash will you say "heel".  Heel means to come in to your left side and sit quietly.  Do not use her name with the heel.

Thank you Jane Pappler for the use of this article!
Redlion Chesapeakes


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